Vol 20, No 3 (2020): Russia’s Foreign Policy in the 21st Century: Views from Inside and Outside


Russian Foreign Policy: On a Comprehensive Understanding

Tsygankov A.P.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):441-448
pages 441-448 views


Vladimir Putin, Twenty Years On: Russia’s Foreign Policy

Freire M.R.


This article touches upon the main dynamics in Russian foreign policy since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000. Following a Constructivist approach to the analysis of foreign policy, the article positions this study at the intersection of domestic processes and external relations, as well as understanding foreign policy as a combination of material and ideational aspects. The discursive practices that drive foreign policy shaping and making are the result of social interaction, and thus, of the combination of these elements, in different formats and weights. Three main dimensions in Russia’s foreign policy course are identified, namely a normative one, defining the guiding principles for foreign policy shaping, the status dimension as the power-alignment underlining foreign policy making, and an identity-driven dimension, ontologically characterizing foreign policy. These three dimensions of analysis are co-constitutive and reinforce each other at different moments and in distinct configurations. The article concludes that Russian foreign policy in the last twenty years has kept its main end-goal quite stable - great power status, - what has changed have been the means - and ways of doing - to achieve this, both regarding a more assertive foreign policy, and increased pressure for revising the international order, attributing Russia the label of a revisionist power in the international system.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):449-462
pages 449-462 views

The Implosion of Global Liberal World Order and Russian Foreign Policy: Dimensions, Tensions, and Prospects

Kochtcheeva L.V.


The world faces a strategic challenge of reforming the governance basis of international politics, which is displaying the symptoms of significant destabilization, searching for new ways of crafting nuanced equilibria of interests and capacity at the global, regional, and domestic levels. Developing intricate and adaptable formulas to manage individual facets of international engagement is becoming increasingly complex and volatile. The effects of instability vary in different countries, but the global operational and political space is increasingly determined by problems within countries, where external stress becomes a result of domestic discrepancies, aggravating them and producing a set of contradictions. In the context of profound global transformations, what explains Russia’s status and positioning in the world? This article argues that as states are struggling to adapt to new realities and acquire capabilities in an effort to survive or gain more influence, Russia’s standing will depend on how adequately it can respond to the challenges and how effectively it will be able to use its advantages. Russia should not simply take in the results of global turbulence, but rather employ and actively develop areas of leadership and collaboration, by tying foreign policy firmly to the priorities of domestic development. While Russia conducts an active foreign policy consistently defending its interests and combining efforts to find optimal solutions to many contemporary problems, it has not yet arrived at a coherent security strategy or produced a vision of a future world order. The success may depend on understanding of the current trends, recognizing opportunities and demonstrating leadership, willingness to share in responsibility for results, as well as conducting essential domestic reforms.
Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):463-475
pages 463-475 views

Russophobia in the Obama Era Foreign Policy Discourse (2009-2017)

Roberts K.


Anti-Russian sentiment - what some call “Russophobia” - is subtle, but visible in the American foreign policy discourse since the end of the Cold War. Most recently, it can be found in the Obama-era discourse about Russia, despite the positive bump in relations after the so-called “reset” of 2009. This paper contends that, among the many irritants in Russia - U.S. relations, anti-Russian sentiment among the American foreign policy leadership is an understudied phenomenon. Russophobia matters because it is present even at times of promise in the relationship; it impedes striking a “normal” relationship with Russia, and it influences policy decisions. This paper conceptualizes Russophobia, considers the source of its persistence in the American foreign policy discourse, and identifies examples of anti-Russian sentiment among key members of Barack Obama’s foreign policy team through an examination of memoirs and personal reflections about Russia. The paper asserts that anti-Russian attitudes in the American foreign policy discourse throughout the post-Cold War era must be identified and understood in order to gain a better understanding of why forging stronger, mutually beneficial relations with Russia continues to evade American policy makers. Anti-Russian sentiment undermined the Obama - Medvedev reset and, while it is certainly not alone responsible for deteriorating relations with Russia, it helped to perpetuate the downturn in relations and must be identified and better understood. The arguments made in this paper and in the selected citations herein, are based upon non-partisan scholarly inquiry and are not a consequence of the author’s personal or political views.
Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):476-490
pages 476-490 views

Russian Foreign Policy and Public Diplomacy: Meeting 21st Century Challenges

Simons G.


Foreign policy is about setting the policy aims and goals of a given country in the competitive environment of international affairs. When analyzing it, one should pay attention to many factors, namely, economic and energy potential, military-technical means, the presence of trade and economic partners, political weight and state image in the international arena, state membership in various international organizations. You can also highlight a number of tools that also play a large role in the foreign policy of states. As a specific instrument of foreign policy, public diplomacy concerns the regulation and management of international relations with various global publics in order to realise those foreign policy aims and goals. Specifically, public diplomacy intends to create a positive reputation and brand of the country, simultaneously increasing the country’s soft power potential, which is based on external and internal sources. This article intends to track and analyse the challenges and the role played by Russian public diplomacy in terms of meeting the challenges of the country’s foreign policy agenda in the 21st century. These challenges have been in a state of transformation as the nature of the environment of international relations changed. As a result, Russian public diplomacy has needed to evolve along with the changes at the global level and consequently the shifting demands enshrined in the foreign policy concepts. There are several identified distinct political policy periods noted: attempts to integrate into the Western-led global order; cooling relations with the United States dominated global order; and preparing for multi-polar and a post-Western global order.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):491-503
pages 491-503 views

Sanctions in U.S. - Russia Relations

Ziegler C.E.


Given America’s leading position in the global economy, the U.S. government has frequently leveraged that power to punish “rogue states”, discourage nuclear proliferation, promote democratization, and create pressure for regime change. Washington relied on economic incentives in relations with Russia after 1991, but since 2012 the United States has utilized a broad range of economic sanctions against Russian side, leading to a significant deterioration in what was already a troubled relationship. In contrast to earlier comprehensive sanctions like those imposed on Iraq and Haiti, the U.S. is now crafting “smart” or targeted sanctions designed to exert maximum pressure on selected Russian elites and firms. Rather than evaluating the effectiveness of these measures on changing Russian behavior, the author explores the neglected domestic dimension of the U.S. sanctions process to improve understanding of U.S. foreign policy. This article draws on primary sources in the form of Congressional legislation, executive orders, and official statements to analyze U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia, and develops three brief case studies - the Magnitsky Act, post-Ukraine sanctions, and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act - to explicate the main issues and actors driving U.S. sanctions. The author argues that domestic factors, including Congressional pressures and interest group activity, are critical to understanding U.S. sanctions regimes. While President Donald Trump has frequently resisted congressionally imposed sanctions, expectations for a more conciliatory approach towards Russia under the Trump administration have not materialized.
Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):504-520
pages 504-520 views

Dreaming on Latin America: Reflections on Russian Diplomacy in the Region

Jeifets V.L.


The article contains an outline of evolution of so-called Russian “return” into Latin America. The author tries to analyze how Russian foreign policy towards the Latin American and Caribbean region over the last three decades pointing some its key features and trying to define existing obstacles for its implementation, and to make some conclusions about possible prospects for Russia’s position in the region facing new challenges. Based on a literature and media review and a survey of documents and available statistical data, as also on the analysis of official statements, the aim of this article is to contribute towards a more profound understanding of Russia’s policy in Latin America. The extension of the article doesn’t permit to make a thorough research of all the details of Moscow’s return to the continent; however, the author will refer to Venezuelan case at the contemporary stage as one of the important issues for Russian policy. The crisis in Venezuela proves to be a test for Russia: is it able to maintain an influential actor in Latin America or not. To sum up, this case is important in the context of this article as it shows if Russian diplomacy in Latin America is really new or it is a re-edition of Soviet policy toward the region.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):521-533
pages 521-533 views

Russia’s Strategies towards BRICS: Problems and Opportunities

Sergunin A.A.


This article aims to examine Moscow’s policy motives regarding BRICS as well as priority areas in Russia’s strategy towards this grouping. The Russian policies towards and within BRICS represent a combination of ideational and material motives. On the one hand, BRICS is important for the Kremlin in terms of status seeking: with the BRICS’ help Russia tries to return its status of a great power, shape the future world order and to make the West abide by the rules of that order. On the other hand, Moscow values its economic and strategic partnerships with the BRICS states which are important for Russia’s well-being and for counter-balancing the West in the global geopolitical and geoeconomic game. In other words, BRICS provides Russia with additional prestige in the international arena as well as greater legitimacy to its international activities. In contrast to the West’s accusations, in case of BRICS Russia’s foreign policy behavior does not fall into the category of the revisionist one. Rather, Russia (similar to other BRICS countries) prefers to act on the basis of existing international rules and norms rather than to challenge or keep them intact. Russia aims at reforming these rules to adapt them to new global realities and make them acceptable for all the members of the world community.
Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):534-542
pages 534-542 views

Eurasian Economic Union: Prospects and Problems of Integration in the Post-Soviet Space

Belashchenko D.A., Tolkachev V.V., Shodzhonov I.F.


The article examines the state of integration processes in the post-Soviet area over the past decade, with a focus on the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), which has contributed to a holistic, comprehensive picture of the current situation with previous developments, consistent disclosure of the conditions for the development of integration processes, highlighting opportunities for the development of integration processes, their defining, designations of cause-and-effect relationships in international political processes in the region. With structural and functional analysis, presented by the mechanisms of functioning of the relevant factors of efficiency in the modern environment and to assess the mechanisms of their activity in changing conditions, the following elements are distinguished in the work: study of the stages of integration processes in the region, identification of factors influencing, analysis and comparison of statistical trade and economic indicators of the EAEU member states, as well as the prospects for the development of integration in the post-Soviet space. The use of SWOT analysis makes it possible to identify potential and weak factors in the development of the EAEU, assess the possibilities for the participation of the Russian Federation in this organization, using possible scenarios for the further functioning of the EAEU. Based on the analysis of macroeconomic indicators, political and economic processes within Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, the authors conclude that there is a high risk of contradictions in these areas in relations between the EAEU countries, which suggests the most likely scenario for the further development of integration processes in violation of the deadlines implementation of plans. The financial factor is the insufficient mechanism for overcoming integration ties in comparison with the European Union. As a prospective development of the EAEU, the most optimal way is seen as its transformation into a kind of economic and political organization.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):543-559
pages 543-559 views


Eurasian Regionalism as a Research Agenda. Interview with Dr. Mikhail A. Molchanov, University of Salamanca, Spain

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Mikhail Aleksandrovich Molchanov is a prominent Canadian political scholar, professor and publicist. He has worked as a senior policy analyst for the Government of Canada and a professor of political science at several Canadian universities. He held a visiting professor appointment at the American University of Sharjah, UAE, and several visiting research appointments at the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies, Waseda University and Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo, Japan, and at the United Nations University Institute of Comparative Regional Studies (UNU-CRIS) in Brugge, Belgium. Dr. Molchanov’s research focuses on international relations in Eurasia and international political economy of regional integration. His research projects have been supported by the United States Institute of Peace, The Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the United Nations University Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS), the United Nations University Institute of Advanced Studies (UNU-IAS), Japan Foundation, Soros Foundations, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation. In 2011, he was awarded the Japan Foundation’s prestigious Japanese Studies Fellowship, and in 2012, elected Foreign Member of the National Academy of Educational Sciences of Ukraine. He is the winner of the inaugural Robert H. Donaldson prize of the International Studies Association for the best paper study of the post-communist region. He sits on the Board of the Global and International Studies Program, University of Salamanca, Spain. Dr. Molchanov has published extensively on comparative politics and international relations of the post-communist states. He has authored and co-authored 7 books and nearly 120 articles and book chapters, including, most recently, Eurasian Regionalisms and Russian Foreign Policy [Molchanov 2016a], and Management Theory for Economic Systems [Molchanov, Molchanova 2018], as well as Eurasian Regionalism: Ideas and Practices [Molchanov 2015], Russia’s Leadership of Regional Integration in Eurasia [Molchanov 2016b], The Eurasian Economic Union [Molchanov 2018a], New Regionalism and Eurasia [Molchanov 2018b], Russian Security Strategy and the Geopolitics of Energy in Eurasia [Molchanov 2019], and Eurasian Regionalisms and Russia’s Pivot to the East: The Role of ASEAN [Molchanov 2014]. In his interview Dr. Molchanov talks about the formation of Eurasian studies in the U.S., Europe and the post-Soviet states, leading scientists in this area and periodicals. Special attention is paid to the perception of the Eurasian space in Western countries, to the prospects for further institutionalization of the Eurasian Economic Union, to the partnership between Russia and China and to Russia - EU relations.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):560-573
pages 560-573 views

From Systemic IR History to the Russian IR Theory. Interview with Professor Alexei D. Bogaturov

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Professor A.D. Bogaturov is a leading Russian IR scholar, orientalist and founder of the scientific school of applied analysis of international relations. A.D. Bogaturov graduated from the Faculty of International Relations of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations in 1976, defended his PhD thesis on foreign policy of Japan in 1983 at the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, and in 1996 at RAS Institute for US and Canadian Studies - his doctoral thesis on the relations of the USSR/Russia and the USA in East Asia. He was a visiting professor at the Brookings Institution, Columbia and Princeton Universities (USA). He worked at RAS Institute for International Security Problems, RAS Institute of World Economy and International Relations, RAS Institute for US and Canadian Studies, RAS Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University, and the Diplomatic Academy of the Russian Foreign Ministry. In 2007-2012 he was deputy-rector at MGIMO University, dean of the Faculty of Political Science (2006-2007) and founder of the Department of Applied Analysis of International Problems. Professor A.D. Bogaturov launched the leading in Russia scientific journal on the theory of international relations - “International Trends”. For many years he had been organizing winter schools for young researchers in Russia, CIS, which helped many of them to become leading IR scholars. He is the author of more than 200 scientific works, including fundamental works on history and theory of international relations, international political analysis published in Russia, as well as in the USA, Japan, Germany, France, South Korea, and Italy. In his interview A.D. Bogaturov describes the way how the systematic approach influenced the teaching of IR history in Russia and how it gradually led to the formation of the Russian theory of international relations.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):574-584
pages 574-584 views


Russia’s Relations with the DPRK in the 21st Century: Results of the First 20 Years

Asmolov K.V., Zakharova L.V.


February 2020 marked 20 years since a new Treaty on Friendship, Good-neighborliness and Cooperation was signed between the Russian Federation and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The document constitutes a basis of modern bilateral relations, free of ideology and based on the principles of pragmatism and mutual benefit. The article explores main directions and results in bilateral ties in 2000-2019 in order to identify the priorities of Russia and the results that Moscow managed to achieve for each of them. The presented hierarchy of Russia’s key interests in relation to the DPRK makes it possible to assess the current level of bilateral interaction and outline the logic of its development and prospects. It was revealed that Russia’s top priority is stability on its borders. Neither a military conflict, nor a humanitarian catastrophe, nor “a larger Republic of Korea” is beneficial to Moscow. Therefore, the Russian Federation seeks to maintain the status quo, contributing (without prejudice to itself) to the economic development of North Korea. With regard to the nuclear settlement, Moscow is not concerned with Pyongyang’s nuclear missile potential per se, but with its possible consequences for regional security. There is a clear understanding that North Korean nukes are not directed against Russia. The second-level priority is Moscow’s observance of its international obligations, the refusal of which may negatively affect the country’s positions in the international arena and other regions. This group of priorities includes Russia’s participation in the nuclear settlement and compliance with the UN Security Council sanctions. In the third place is the protection of Russian economic interests in the region, which are few at this stage, since most economic projects have a political background. The authors conclude that Russia’s strategic goals (peace and security in the Northeast Asia) have not been achieved yet, while the main tactical ones (i.e. border stability) have been mostly attained, although with some damage to less significant priorities (such as economic interests in the region).

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):585-604
pages 585-604 views


Symbolic Politics of Georgia and Azerbaijan in Russia: Two Research Cases

Volkhonsky M.A., Yarlykapov A.A.


One of the most actively discussed topics in modern political science is symbolic politics. This topic looks especially relevant in relation to the former Soviet republics, which are actively operating within the framework of the symbolic component of politics. Based on an interdisciplinary approach to the study of symbolic politics, the article analyzes two cases related to the symbolic politics of the two republics of the post-Soviet space - Georgia and Azerbaijan, respectively. The first case refers to an attempt by the leadership of the Georgian Orthodox Church to obtain permission from the Russian Orthodox Church and the Russian authorities to transfer the ashes of Georgian kings Vakhtang VI and Teymuraz II from Astrakhan to Tbilisi. The second case studies the circumstances of the construction of a monument in Dagestan near Agachaul to Turkish soldiers who died here in 1918 during the Civil war. The two cases presented in the article are interesting primarily because they allow us to see the methods of symbolic politics using concrete examples. In both cases, the actors were not state structures, but religious, social, and scientific organizations. The main method of the actors was to organize a commemorative campaign, around which an information campaign was then built, with the aim of replicating a certain interpretation of historical events. At the same time, cases differ from each other in the degree of openness and scale of actions of actors. In the first case regarding the transfer of the ashes of Georgian tsars, the Georgian side directly addressed both the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church and the leadership of Russia. At the same time, the actions undertaken by the Georgian side were not successful. In the second case, the Azerbaijani side actively used the local commemorative campaign, initiated by local communities in Dagestan, to launch an appropriate wide information campaign. A comparison of cases leads to the conclusion that the success of a symbolic policy does not depend on the scale of the actions taken.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):605-618
pages 605-618 views


USSR and the 1966 Coup d’État in Ghana: Based on Materials from Russian Archives

Mazov S.V.


The article investigates the role of Soviet experts and diplomats in conceiving the economic policy of the government of Kwame Nkrumah and in elaborating a seven-year development plan for Ghana (1963-1970). Drawing on extensive documents from Russian archives, the author proved that the USSR Ambassador to Ghana had recommended Soviet economic recipes to President Kwame Nkrumah, ignoring Ghanaian realities and opportunities, - the introduction of a planned economy, the nationalization of large enterprises and banks, the establishment of state control over the main industries, and the creation of collective farms in the countryside. K. Nkrumah believed that with the assistance of the Soviet Union, Ghana would be able to successfully repeat its experience of rapid industrialization. The attempts to implement an unfeasible program have brought the economy of Ghana to the brink of collapse. Soviet economic and financial aid turned out to be ineffective. Most joint ventures remained costly long-term constructions due to errors in planning and supply. The economic collapse and falling living standards of the population ensured the success of the military coup on February 24, 1966 to a large extent. The leadership of the USSR faced a difficult dilemma. In the name of publicly declared values, ideological principles of the Soviet foreign policy, the military-police junta that ousted K. Nkrumah should not be recognized. Pragmatic interests (repayment of loans, retaining profitable bilateral trade, the ability to complete the construction of joint facilities) required the maintaining of relations with the junta. The author found that the reaction of the Soviet Union to the military coup was not consistent. At first, it was decided not to recognize the “reactionary”, pro-Western regime and to help K. Nkrumah regain power by force of arms. A Soviet ship was sent to the shores of West Africa with a cargo of weapons for his supporters. Soon the ship was recalled, and full-scale relations with the new regime were restored. Pragmatism has become superior over ideology reflecting a change in the Soviet African policy after a series of setbacks there.

Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):619-633
pages 619-633 views


Book review: Tsygankov, A. (Eds.). (2018). Routledge Handbook of Russian Foreign Policy. Abington: Routledge, 440 p.

Kurylev K.P., Turava G.M.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):634-637
pages 634-637 views

Book review: Kochtcheeva, L.V. (2020). Russian Politics and Response to Globalization. London, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 250 p.

Butorov A.S.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):638-640
pages 638-640 views

Book review: Wang, Xiaoquan. (2018). “Yidai yilu” jianshe zhong shenhua Zhonge zhanlue xiezuo yanjiu. Peking: Zhongguo shehui kexue chubanshe [Deepening China-Russia Strategic Cooperation in the Construction of “Belt and Road” Studies. Peking: Chinese Social Science Press], 169 p. (In Chinese)

Grachikov Y.N.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):641-644
pages 641-644 views

Book review: Savin, L.V. (2020). Ordo Pluriversalis. The Restoration of the Multipolar World Order. Moscow: ID “Kislorod” publ., 592 p. (In Russian)

Ermakov S.M.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):645-647
pages 645-647 views
pages 648-651 views

Book review: Ponomarenko, L.V., Lukyanova, G.O. & Chikrizova, O.S. (2020). Kingdom of Morocco: The Pearl of the Arab West. Moscow: Aspekt Press publ., 232 p. (In Russian)

Zueva E.G., Kudelin A.A.



Vestnik RUDN. International Relations. 2020;20(3):652-656
pages 652-656 views

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